HOW THE PENS COULD HAVE BEEN FIXED


This is one in a series. To get up to speed on the state of the Penguins after trading Patric Hornqvist, click HERE and HERE.

The Penguins have no choice but to think their championship window is still open because they won’t trade any of their core three: Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin.

Owner Mario Lemieux has much to do with that: After the 2001 trade of Jaromir Jagr to Washington proved disastrous on many levels, Lemieux wants the team to keep its stars. That’s not unreasonable, especially when fans can again attend. Stars sell tickets.They are also what makes the franchise special.

So, the Penguins must assemble what it can around that trio, hoping they defy the aging process and/or adjust their games to work around it. The contracts of Crosby, Letang and Malkin have matured into bargains as the salary cap keeps rising, along with the NHL’s top salaries. (Revenue lost because of the pandemic will put a halt to that, however temporarily.)

At any rate, Letang and Malkin aren’t tradable. Their age would greatly diminish return. (The Penguins would not let Crosby go, ever, under any circumstances.)

The player to trade was Malkin, and the time to do that was after the Penguins got eliminated by Washington in the 2018 playoffs.

Malkin was 31 and coming off a 98-point season. Return for him would have been monstrous. If that deal falls just right, the Penguins get younger, stay the fastest team in the league and again mature into a legit contender…probably right about now, and for the next 3-4 years.

Of course, there are no guarantees when you make that trade.

The team that gives up the best player usually loses the deal. Malkin has a full no-movement clause. You alienate part of your fan base, namely those that call my show and yell, “GENO! GENO, GENO, GENO, GENO!”

Most important, the Penguins didn’t do it.

I have no problem with retaining the core three for the equivalent of a lengthy victory lap.

Nor am I ruling out that core finding magic one more time. It’s just not how I’d bet.

But I am aware where the Penguins are very likely headed. Most of you are not.

You want change, but don’t want any of your favorites to depart.

You don’t understand that no trade(s) can be made to fix the Penguins. The decline is organic, inevitable, underway and can’t be stopped.

The last best chance to do that was trading Malkin in 2018.

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